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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Crime: the cornerstone Tory issue stolen by Blair

Crime: the cornerstone Tory issue stolen by Blair

Tony Blair, way back when he was shadow home secretary, realised being tough on law and order – or crime and its causes - was a vote-winner. He was right.

By Andrew Porter

Mr Blair understood the importance of being tough on law and order Photo: EPA

And yet despite David Cameron and his right hand man George Osborne supposedly being in awe of the former Labour prime minister, they do not seem capable, or willing, to emulate the three-time general election winner.

It took Labour about one and a half terms in power to generate the sort of “soft on crime” headlines that the Coalition has managed to garner in just one year. The grassroots and backbench MPs must be in despair.

After attempting to sort out another under-performing Cabinet minister in Andrew Lansley, Mr Cameron yesterday hauled in Ken Clarke to detail why he would have to think again on giving those criminals pleading guilty a 50 per cent sentence discount.

The Justice Secretary has presided over a ministry that has proved shambollic. From Crispin Blunt, the Prisons Minister, ripping up regulations so that prisoners can have fancy dress “monster” parties, to votes for prisoners and on to the outcry over definitions of rape, to name but a few.

And over at the Home Office things have proved little better. Nick Herbert, the Policing Minister, thought it wise – probably having spent too much time with his head in an academic thesis rather than getting out on the streets – to declare that there was no link between the numbers of bobbies on the beat with crime levels. Very clever.

Some Tory MPs claim Mr Cameron has taken too much notice of Oliver Letwin, his liberal-thinking policy guru. Certainly, they are right to wonder where it all went wrong.

Mr Cameron – yet again – has decided only his personal intervention can rescue the situation. His party need him to reclaim the law-and-order issue for the Tories.

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